My tail is between my legs. I am late with this blog post. It was meant to time out in conjunction with National Poison Prevention Week.  Here is some belated, but hopefully interesting and useful information gleaned from the call logs of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Here is their list of the top ten pet toxins in 2013. They are ranked below based on call volume.

1. Prescription human medications: The Animal Poison Control Center received a whopping 27,673 calls regarding exposure to human medications in 2013. The three categories of drugs most commonly implicated included heart medications (including blood pressure pills), antidepressants, and pain medications (opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications). Honestly, I’m surprised that medicinal marijuana wasn’t a front-runner on this list!

2. Insecticides: More than half of the calls pertaining to insecticides involved cats. I certainly know from experience, that many people unwittingly apply “canine only” insecticides to their kitties, thinking that one size fits all. The important lesson here is to always carefully and thoroughly read the product label before applying an insecticide to any living creature.

3. Over-the-counter human medications: This group of drugs included acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and some herbal and nutraceutical products such as fish oil and joint supplements. I can’t even begin to count the number of dogs I’ve treated over the years for gastrointestinal upset and/or kidney failure caused by ibuprofen. Remember, just because it’s good for us doesn’t mean it’s good for our pets.

4. Household products: The toxins reported ranged from fire logs to cleaning products. Some of the chemicals are corrosive to the gastrointestinal tract. Other products are capable of causing an obstruction if swallowed.

5. People food: The biggees here are onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, and the sugar substitute, xylitol. These food products have the potential to cause kidney failure (grapes and raisins), gastrointestinal upset and damage to red blood cells (onions and garlic), and dangerously low blood sugar levels (xylitol).

6. Veterinary products and medications: These products are often flavored in order to make for a more palatable pilling process. The more delectable the medication, the more likely the animal is to eat as many tablets as possible when inadvertently allowed access to the entire bottle. The containers may be childproof, but they’re certainly not resistant to the gnashing and mashing of canine jowls.

7. Chocolate: I’m not sure why this was not included as a “people food”. It’s certainly one of my favorites! Methylxanthine is the substance in chocolate that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremoring, elevation in heart rate, and even seizures. The darker/purer the chocolate is, the greater the potential for toxicity. The lesson here- always be selfish with your chocolate!

8. Rodenticides: These are poisons intended to kill mice and rats. In many cases of accidental pet exposure, the people involved either had no idea how their pet could have been exposed, or they felt certain that there was no way their pet could have accessed the product where it was placed. Pets are pretty darned clever at getting to such tasty stuff. Depending on the type of poison, rodenticide toxicity can present as internal bleeding, seizures, or kidney failure. Here’s the bottom line. If you share your home with a pet, do not use a rodenticide anywhere on your premise. Let your kitties and your terriers do the mousing.

9. Plants: Lilies are the major culprits here. When ingested, they are capable of causing an abrupt onset of kidney failure. The outcome can be favorable, but only with really aggressive therapy that sometimes includes dialysis. Spare yourself this heartache- get rid of any lilies in your yard, and don’t bring any lily containing bouquets or plants into the house. Kitties just love to nibble on them.

10. Lawn and Garden Products: What dog doesn’t love what fertilizers contain- bone meal, manure from all kinds of critters, and, sometimes, even some dried blood. Dogs that eat enough of the stuff will develop some rip roaring gastrointestinal symptoms, and potentially even an obstruction.

Have you ever had to deal with a pet-related toxicity? What happened and how did everything turn out?

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
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